Medical coders are integral members of the healthcare industry who assist doctors and other health professionals across several areas. Medical coders oversee patient health records, analyze reimbursement terms, and review healthcare regulations compliance. If you’re looking to build a career in healthcare, getting medical coding certifications is an excellent place to start.
This article examines some of the highest-paying medical certifications and the jobs you can get with them. Additionally, we discuss typical preparatory resources for the certification exams and how to use them. Keep reading to find out more.
What Is a Professional Certification?
Professional certification is a designated credential or document that signifies an individual’s knowledge, skills, and competencies in a specific task or field of training. You can get one by passing a test or series of tests administered by a professional agency or educational institution.
What’s the Difference Between a Certification and a Certificate?
The difference between a certification and a certificate is that you get the former when you meet standard, predetermined criteria established by a professional credentialing organization. It involves paying an exam fee, writing the tests or exams, and renewing the certification after a specific period.
A certificate is an academic document that demonstrates the completion of a course or series of lessons in one particular field. You can get one by enrolling in a certificate program at an accredited educational institution.
Why Is Certification in Medical Coding Important?
Certification in medical coding is important because it proves your expertise in healthcare coding systems and health information technology. Medical coding is a stable career, with Bureau of Labor Statistics figures indicating that jobs in health information and medical records will grow by around nine percent over the next decade.
Best Medical Coding Certifications by Salary
|Certified Risk Adjustment Coder (CRC®)||American Association of Professional Coders||$65,000||$349/exam (first attempt); $449/exam (second attempt)|
|Certified Medical Office Manager (CMOM)®||Practice Management Institute||$63,000||$299/exam|
|Certified Professional Coder (CPC®)||American Association of Professional Coders||$61,000||$1,607.74 (online with add-ons and full AAPC membership); $1,738.74 (in-person with add-ons and full AAPC membership)|
|Certified Medical Insurance Specialist (CMIS)®||Practice Management Institute||$59,994||$299/exam|
|Certified Outpatient Coder (COC®)||American Association of Professional Coders||$57,000||$1,234.70 (with add-ons and full AAPC membership)|
|Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT®)||American Health Information Management Association||$54,881||$299 (non-member price); $229 (member price)|
|Certified Coding Specialist – Physician-based (CCS-P®)||American Health Information Management Association||$67,000||$399 (non-member price); $299 (member price)|
|Certified Medical Reimbursement Specialist (CMRS®)||American Medical Billing Association||$49,000||$325|
|Certified Medical Coder (CMC)®||Practice Management Institute||$51,000||$1,250|
|Certified Coding Associate (CCA®)||American Health Information Management Association||$44,000||$299 (non-member price); $199 (member price)
Best Medical Coding Certifications to Further Your Career
How to Choose the Best Medical Coding Certification for Your Career
You must consider cost, career goals, and learning environment when choosing a certification. The best medical coding certifications typically offer candidates various certification options depending on their experience level and budget. Below, we discuss tips for choosing the best medical coding certifications in detail.
Consider the Training Schedule for the Certification
Some certification programs only require that you register for an exam. However, others may require candidates to receive in-person training to be eligible for it. Depending on your schedule, you may prefer one over the other. You should choose the one that best fits your schedule and professional needs.
Consider Your Career Goals
Some certification programs focus on risk adjustment, medical claim denials, and practice management. Others, like the CPC® certification, allow you to become a healthcare business professional without prior experience. However, you can become a professional coder with a few years of experience or train with the AAPC and pass the certification exam.
Work Within a Budget
You may want to get one of the top certifications in this field if you are an experienced professional. However, these can be expensive and you may want to consider getting cheaper, lower-level certifications first. You can use free budgeting apps to manage your finances, save up, and get the costlier certifications later.
Which Medical Coding Certifications Pay the Most?
The medical certifications that pay the most are the Certified Risk Adjustment Coder (CRC®), Certified Medical Office Manager (CMOM®), Certified Professional Coder (CPC®), Certified Medical Insurance Specialist (CMIS®), and Certified Outpatient Coder (COC®) certifications.
You can earn between $57,000 and $65,000 annually if you have any of these certifications. Note that the figures above are average salaries and you can potentially earn more depending on your experience and the organization you work for.
Highest-Paying Medical Coding Certifications
- Certified Risk Adjustment Coder (CRC®): $65,000
- Certified Medical Office Manager (CMOM®): $63,000
- Certified Professional Coder (CPC®): $61,000
- Certified Medical Insurance Specialist (CMIS®): $59,994
- Certified Outpatient Coder (COC®): $57,000
Which Medical Coding Certifications Are the Best for Beginners?
The best medical coding certifications for beginners are the Certified Professional Coder (CPC®), Certified Coding Specialist – Physician-based (CCS-P®), and Certified Medical Coder (CMC®) certifications. They are great for entry-level medical coders as they test the basics of medical coding principles.
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Best College Certificate Programs
How to Prepare for Your Medical Coding Certification Exam
Medical coding exam prep is essential when you want to obtain a professional certification in medical healthcare. You can take either take the preparatory courses, do your own reading, or look into other relevant resources offered by professional associations. Below, we discuss these in detail.
Best Courses to Prepare for Medical Coding Certification Exams
The best medical coding prep courses are available across various platforms. Agencies that provide certifications and educational institutions offer several of them. Most of these courses require that you pay a small fee in order to enroll.
Other Resources to Prepare for Your Medical Coding Certification Exams
You can incorporate other resources into your medical coding certification prep, on top of the courses listed above. Read on to learn more about additional resources which include books and webinars.
Clinical Coding Workout: Practice Exercises for Skill Development with Odd-Numbered Online Answers
This book is a provision from the American Health Information Management Association. It contains over 1,000 practice coding exercises to prepare you for various aspects of the certification exam, including topics like disease management and body system classification.
Clinical Coding Workout: Practice Exercises for Skill Development with Odd-Numbered Online Answers Overview
- Type of Resource: Book
- Cost: $89.95
- Ideal For: Professionals who want to practice clinical coding exercises
Advanced Coding & Auditing Bootcamp
This six-hour bootcamp covers provider service coding, self-audit protocols, and coding errors in medical reimbursement and patient record analysis. As it is an advanced-level course, you will need to consult relevant code sets and manuals to understand the lessons thoroughly. The course material is available online for six months after the program concludes.
Advanced Coding & Auditing Bootcamp Overview
- Type of Resource: Bootcamp
- Cost: $299
- Ideal For: Professional coders and auditors looking to improve efficiency and reduce practice risk
ICD-10-CM 2022: The Complete Official Codebook
This codebook contains updated coding guidelines and the latest codes surrounding major complication or comorbidity (MCC) and complication or comorbidity (CC). It also covers the American Hospital Association (AHA) Coding Clinic references. Its color-coded sections and anatomical art depictions enable readers to locate and understand relevant information quickly.
ICD-10-CM 2022: The Complete Official Codebook Overview
- Type of Resource: Book
- Cost: $115
- Ideal For: Candidates preparing for Certified Coding Associate (CCA®) certification exams
E/M Chart Auditing Workshop
This workshop deals with medical auditing processes and verifying claim submissions via chart documentation. It also aids your understanding of decision-making criteria in medical claims and is suitable for compliance officers, office managers, and medical consultants.
E/M Chart Auditing Workshop Overview
- Type of Resource: Workshop
- Cost: $299
- Ideal For: Management personnel looking to understand auditing processes and minimize unnecessary financial regulatory oversight
2022 HCPCS Level II, Professional Edition
This book is an excellent guide to current Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) codes. It contains relevant coding regulations, patient data report methods, reimbursement options, and master ICD-10 coding. Furthermore, it provides vital indicators for medical equipment and manufacturer codes.
2022 HCPCS Level II, Professional Edition Overview
- Type of Resource: Book
- Cost: $94.95
- Ideal For: Healthcare reimbursement specialists looking to understand coding plans better
Best Online Courses
Medical Coding Job Outlook and Average Salary
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for medical records and health information roles is on the incline. It is projected to grow by nine percent over the next decade. Additionally, medical assistant jobs are expected to grow 18 percent in the same period, which signifies tremendous opportunities in the field.
BLS also states that medical records and health information specialists make an average of $51,840 per year. If you are just starting a career in medical coding, getting a professional certification is a great way to boost your financial and career prospects in the healthcare field. Below, we discuss some of the best medical coding jobs that you can pursue after obtaining a relevant certification.
Best Medical Coding Jobs After Certification
The best medical coding jobs typically involve working in a hospital setting which can be very demanding. Another option is for you to venture into roles in the allied healthcare fields, which you can pursue after getting the certifications recommended above. Here are some of the roles that you can look forward to.
Best Medical Coding Associations
There are various medical coding associations and each one offers numerous perks and advantages, depending on your professional goals and career development plans. Below, we discuss three of the most well-known medical coding associations you can join.
American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC)
The AAPC is one of the most well-known associations for medical coders and auditors. It also offers professional certifications and individual and corporate membership options for healthcare workers. Joining the academy is an excellent way to connect with like-minded professionals and build strong professional networks.
American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA)
This organization prides itself on developing leaders in the medical industry and its members are well-known for their contributions to health information management. Seventy-five percent of its members earn over $50,000 annually, even without a four-year bachelor’s degree. Additionally, it offers industry-recognized certifications to qualified professionals.
Medical Association of Billers (MAB)
This association offers America’s oldest billing and coding certification, the Certified Medical Billing Specialist® (CMBS) credential. While its programs do not award coding certifications, they are valuable to coding and medical billing professionals. You can improve your medical billing and coding knowledge while developing new skills to assist healthcare providers.
Are Medical Coding Certifications Worth It?
Yes, medical coding certifications are worth it because they provide professionals with the qualifications to practice in various healthcare settings. They also boost your administrative skills, career-earning potential, and professional experience. Obtaining a medical coding certification is perfect if you’re after rapid professional development in healthcare management.
Additional Reading About Medical Coding
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Medical Coding Certifications FAQ
You can become a medical coder by completing a certificate or associate degree program from an accredited tertiary institution. One of the best undergraduate options is the Medical Coding Specialist Certificate program at Santa Barbara City College. It offers on-campus and online learning options and is relatively affordable.
No, you don’t need a professional certification to work in medical coding. However, getting a certification improves your professional skills, boosts your employability, and increases your earning potential. You can also connect with other professionals and build strong professional networks.
No, universities do not offer professional medical coding certifications. However, several universities and colleges offer top-class associate and certificate options in medical coding and billing to get an undergraduate qualification. Of course, these do not replace your professional certification.
No, it is not hard to get a job in medical coding. The openings and job opportunities in healthcare are expanding annually, so you can find a suitable role. However, the kind of job you get depends on your experience and educational qualifications, so obtaining certifications and degrees can improve your job prospects.
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